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The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

4.9 17
by Langston Hughes, David E. Roessel (Editor), Arnold Rampersad (Editor)

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Spanning five decades and comprising 868 poems (nearly 300 of which have never before appeared in book form), this volume is the definitive sampling of a writer who has been called the poet laureate of African America -- and perhaps our greatest popular poet since Walt Whitman. Here, for the first time, are all the poems that Langston Hughes published during his


Spanning five decades and comprising 868 poems (nearly 300 of which have never before appeared in book form), this volume is the definitive sampling of a writer who has been called the poet laureate of African America -- and perhaps our greatest popular poet since Walt Whitman. Here, for the first time, are all the poems that Langston Hughes published during his lifetime, arranged in the general order in which he wrote them and annotated by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel.

Alongside such famous works as "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" and Montage of a Dream Deferred, The Collected Poems includes the author's lesser-known verse for children; topical poems distributed through the Associated Negro Press; and poems such as "Goodbye Christ" that were once suppressed. Lyrical and pungent, passionate and polemical, the result is a treasure of a book, the essential collection of a poet whose words have entered our common language.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
At last Hughes has gotten his first collected edition; it is overdue. The editors have attempted to collect every poem (860 in all) published by the writer in his lifetime, and have also provided a brief but informative introduction, a detailed chronology and extensive textual notes that include the original date and place of publication for each poem. In fact, this edition corrects the many errors and omissions of the standard Hughes bibliography, and the editors plan to update the text as more unpublished work surfaces. Although Hughes is best known for his poems celebrating African African life, he was also a passionately political poet who paid dearly for his communist affiliations and radical views. The chronological arrangement of the poems allows the reader to follow the course of Hughes's career-long political engagement, though probably Hughes will mainly be read for the clarity of his language, his wise humor and his insight into the human condition. BOMC selection. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Coedited by Hughes biographer Rampersad (Vol. 1, LJ 8/86; Vol. 2, LJ 9/15/88), this is the most complete collection of Hughes's poems to date. Known for a few brilliant pieces, Hughes wrote many others-860 are here, and this after unpublished work and juvenalia were excluded. Quite a few are songs or what the editors appropriately term "doggerel." Works are in chronological order, except for two improtant books printed intact: Montage of a Dream Deferred and Ask you Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz. A short preface, a time line of Hughes' life, and historical endnotes are also included. The time line is as moving as any of Hughes's poems; together, they document an intensely felt life of hardship and perseverance. Persecuted for his leftist politics as well as his skin color, Hughes just kept on writing. Beyond their relative merits-their rhymes, song rhythms, and sometimes dogmatic approach will not appeal to all-these poems are full of beauty, qualified joy, and sharp illustrations of African American life in our century. For every collection.-Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
Donna Seaman
In an early poem titled "Formula," Hughes (1902-67) mocks the belief that poetry should be about "lofty things." For this revolutionary African American poet, poetry had to be about "earthly pain." This poem also prefigures the central controversy of Hughes' literary career: he was celebrated as the poet laureate of Americans of African descent just as often as he was castigated for being trite and simplistic. In their succinct and informative introduction to this definitive and invaluable collection, Hughes biographer Rampersad and modern American poetry expert Roessel don't deny the fact that Hughes' newspaper work has been described as doggerel, but the 860 poems gathered here soar far above such nitpicking. All are published works, and all are exceptional. Hughes was a "democratic" poet who wanted his work to be accessible in both subject matter and style, so he wrote poems charged with the immediacy of life and the rhythm of speech and song. Influenced by the Bible, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Walt Whitman, Hughes' aesthetics were based on African American music, especially the plaintive pulse of the blues and the swoops and growls of jazz. Always a man of his times, Hughes wrote about southern violence, Harlem street life, poverty, prejudice, hunger, hopelessness, and love. Many of his poems are portraits of people whose lives are impacted by racism and sexual conflicts. During the 1930s, Hughes' poems took on a more international and politically radical tone; it was during this decade that Hughes acquired a damaging and inaccurate reputation for being a Communist. In spite of being condemned by critics on both the Left and the Right, Hughes stayed true to his muse, chronicling the black American experience and contrasting the beauty of the soul with the loathsomeness of circumstance.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.37(h) x 2.22(d)

Read an Excerpt

Juke Box Love Song

I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue busses,
Taxis, subways,
And for your love song tone their rumble down.
Take Harlem's heartbeat,
Make a drumbeat,
Put it on a record, let it whirl,
And while we listen to it play,
Dance with you till day—
Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902.  After graduation from high school, he spent a year in Mexico with his father, then a year studying at Columbia University.  His first poem in a nationally known magazine was "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," which appeared in Crisis in 1921.  In 1925, he was awarded the First Prize for Poetry of the magazine Opportunity, the winning poem being "The Weary Blues," which gave its title to his first book of poems, published in 1926.  As a result of his poetry, Mr. Hughes received a scholarship at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he won his B.A. in 1929.  In 1943, he was awarded an honorary Litt.D. by his alma mater; he has also been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (1935), a Rosenwald Fellowship (1940), and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Grant (1947).  From 1926 until his death in 1967, Langston Hughes devoted his time to writing and lecturing.  He wrote poetry, short stories, autobiography, song lyrics, essays, humor, and plays.  A cross section of his work was published in 1958 as The Langston Hughes Reader.

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The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Langston Hughes has been my favorite poet since i was younger!I am only 13 but i love poety espically by Langston Hughes His Poem Dreams really inspired me the most..Hold fat unto you Dreams...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some people can pick up and write poetry.But without meaning the words which they write are nothing.But heart and soul woven together create the poems which langston Hughes writes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am in constant awe of the words penned by Mr. Hughes. His works remain the catalyst for my writing career. He inspies me to write, and to be true in my words. I can never fill his shoes, but I gladly and humbly follow in his footsteps.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been a fan of Langston Hughes for a while now. The poems in this book are ones that I have read personally for years. Reading Hughes' poems it brings you back to the heart and soul of the time where he lived.  Langston predominately wrote about the hardships or what was happening during the Harlem Renaissance.  His poems are a favorite of many because it can relate to pretty much anyone. His poem Harlem could be referred to a person’s dream. He compares a dream to a raisin because a raisin is dried and shriveled up like how a dream could be if left if someone does not act upon it.  Though his subjects are still relatable now, they were made to depict the low-life that Langston knew. Langston knew that being a black was tough. So he wrote about it in a way that not just blacks could understand. His poems portrayed struggle, joy, laughter, and music. Langston had no boundaries of what he wrote about. Writing about dreams or stereotypes were not a problem for Langston. Since he was one of the few prominent black writers he was an inspiration for many other writers and even artists.  
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ltown05 More than 1 year ago
Langston Hughes has been a long time favorite of mine. This book evokes memories of days gone by and the innocence that I have lost since then.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Leads to those that can only acknowledge of which was. I true lover of Langston Hughes'work, I can only say you can only become enriched from reading this book and no other one will stand up to the style of composition that comes through. I could only wish other poets of this age could begin to unfold in such beauty as he has. In his time of limitations he seemed to make presentation limitless.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Words cannot begin to express how incredibly talented this man is. This collection of his poems is skillfully put together. There is a poem for every human emotion possible. It is a beautiful guide throught the history of black American life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just have one thing to say: Brilliant!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Langston is one of my favorite poets ever. His words or just the greatest. He really opens himself you and you can really feel what he is writing and what was going on. He was the first poet I really got into and like b/c before I never really liked poety. He just inspiered me in some weird way. I think he is the best.